Analyzing a Text for Purpose

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SWBAT analyze a text for purpose, including rhetoric and style, by analyzing "My Life on the Plains" (Custer).

Big Idea

I know what it says, but WHY say it? Analyzing purpose in informational texts.

Do Now: Why Advertise the West?

5 minutes

To start today in line with our current theme of the old west, I show students an ad and ask them to analyze it: why does this ad take place in the old west?

Students believe the ad is set in the old west to grab attention--the music and showdown format are familiar and engaging. Plus, they point out, the west was a dry climate (in some areas and as depicted in the ad), so who wouldn't want a Pepsi for refreshment?

While students' observations are interesting, I'm happier that they see a connection between content and purpose--and I tell them so!


What is Purpose?

20 minutes

We're already talking about purpose, but there is far more to the standard than purpose alone. Students need to consider how rhetoric and style help (or hurt) purpose to be proficient in RI.6, and this is new territory for them.

I pass out a notes guide, and together we view the notes (formatted as a video for an attempt at flipped learning and today requested by students--apparently they want to make me feel awkward; who really likes hearing their voice on tape?).

I pause to allow writing and emphasize key points:

  • claim = what; purpose = why
  • for most political texts, the purpose includes an action, not just "understanding"
  • analysis requires examples
  • evaluation requires examples, too

Notes, complete, we are ready to move into practice.

**Please note that my district has recoded the standards; our RI7 is RI6.

Purpose Practice

25 minutes

With terms and tips fresh on our mind, we move into practice. I ask students to analyze "My Life on the Plains" for purpose with guiding questions. They work in assigned groups (by seating chart), but each student completes his or her own practice paper. I will collect by "luck of the draw" with cards labeled "me" or "not me," which encourages the group to make sure everyone works.

Students have few questions for me, relying instead on one another. Mostly, they want clarification of terms:

  • "What does word choice mean?"
  • "I can't remember ethos-logos-pathos."
  • "Do you have the figurative language terms?"

Peers are able to help with these types of questions, providing answers or relevant notes.

Their end work ranges from not yet proficient to proficient, with no advanced students yet. This is, of course, okay given that it's our first practice. Check out the resources for student examples with analysis.